The central Texas city of Austin is known for its live music, food trucks, and overall weird culture! As a university town, Austin boasts lots of trendy attractions and indoor spaces that are perfect for young people. Plus, there’s a passion for sports teams that you can only find in the south! If you are heading the Texas state capital soon, you’ll want to keep reading for my top picks for things to do in Austin with teens.
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Where to Stay in Austin
- Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa – This AAA Four Diamond luxury resort is located a half-hour west of downtown. With world-class golf, tennis, and spa facilities, as well as a variety of dining options, it’s a great option for families traveling with kids and teens and one of the best family resorts in Texas!
- Hyatt Regency Austin – This property has a central location downtown, about 15 minutes walking to South Congress. There’s an outdoor pool and a 24-hour fitness center, and some rooms have river and downtown views!
- Fairmont Austin – This upscale property has gorgeous swimming pools, a coffee shop, and a fitness center. Some rooms offer beautiful city views.
- We have also stayed at the Embassy Suites Downtown which has a convenient location and great free breakfast.
21 Fun Things To Do In Austin With Teenagers
Austin has a unique location, right on the northern edge of the Texas hill country and just south of the sprawling, arid Texas plains. It’s only an hour’s drive from the German town of New Braunfels, and an easy 90 minutes from San Antonio. This sweet spot provides a variety of indoor and outdoor things to do in and around the Austin area, all with gorgeous scenery and a vibrant cultural setting.
If it’s your first time visiting the capital of Texas, I suggest sticking to the downtown area, just north of the Colorado River, near the Congress Avenue Bridge. Austin is rather hilly, but it’s super walkable with all kinds of things to do. Just make sure to bring lots of water and good shoes, especially if you are visiting in the summer when it gets pretty hot!
For those who just can’t get enough of Austin’s weird culture, 2nd and 3rd visits are perfect for exploring the greater Austin area, with trips to Lake Travis or going on food truck searches. All of this and more are covered below!
1. Explore the Shops on South Congress Avenue
The chill South Austin neighborhood of SoCo is where to go for great food and fabulous shopping, no matter if you are looking for vintage treasures or the biggest brands. There’s a strip of South Congress that’s about 1.5 miles just south of the river with everything you could possibly want.
If you are looking for cowboy boots or want to get fitted for a bucket hat, go to the Texas staple, Allens Boots. For souvenirs and collectible action figures, the quirky Monkey See Monkey DO is a must! South Congress also boasts hip brands like Madewell and Nike and a variety of vintage and custom boutiques for both men and women. Then there’s Big Top Candy and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.
2. Do a Mural Scavenger Hunt
Austin is known for being home to fantastic local artists who contribute to the city’s growing collection of street art murals. You can drive all over the city and find a wide range of opportunities to pull over and take a picture! However, there are a large number of murals that can be found along South Congress.
During the summer, you might find local guides who offer cycling or walking tours across Austin. If that’s not really your thing, you can also try a self-guided tour using the Anytime Scavenger Hunt app by Let’s Roam for both iOS and Android phones. Check out iconic art from the comfort of your own vehicle, including the Greetings from Austin mural!
3. Tour the Texas State Capitol Building
Another very-Austin thing to do that’s a lot less boring than you’d think is visiting the capitol building, located in the heart of downtown Austin. Built in 1888, the completely-granite building is absolutely a sight to behold, surrounded by gorgeous green lawns where you’ll see locals relaxing under trees.
Inside, the guided tours are definitely worth it and give you access to public and private spaces. Your tour guide will teach you about the significance of the symbols in the rotunda and share exciting turn of events in Texas history that took place in the House of Representatives Chamber. Tours are free and take place every day.
4. See the Congress Ave Bridge Bats
One of the top things to do in Austin with teens is to check out the bats that live under the Congress Avenue Bridge! From the beginning of March through the end of October, they emerge right around sunset for their nightly hunt.
If watching bats fly sounds weird or boring, you have to experience this natural event for yourself! It’s quite a sight to see black swarms of hundreds of Mexican free-tailed bats climbing into the sky with the orange and red Texas sunset beyond.
Be sure to arrive about an hour before sunset along the banks of the Colorado River. Parking can be tricky, so I suggest hanging out nearby and walking!
You can join the crowds of people who come every night to watch the bats leave the bridge for free. If you prefer, you can find all kinds of affordable kayak tours and boat cruises that give you a great (and less crowded) view from the water!
5. See a Sporting Event
Probably the best place to experience fan loyalty is in the south. The University of Texas is best known for being home to the Texas Longhorns football team.
For a fun time, come in October for the Red River Showdown that spotlights the rivalry between UT and the University of Oklahoma Sooners! Plus, the Texas State Fair in Dallas coincides at the same time with tons of fun rides and attractions.
If you aren’t a football fan, don’t worry! UT has a great men’s basketball team, also called the Longhorns. There’s also the fairly new Austin FC professional soccer club that plays in north Austin.
6. Explore Zilker Park
On the southern bank of the Colorado River is the massive Zilker Park. Covering more than 350 acres, there are countless things to do with teens.
The park is best known for its expansive green lawns with great views of the Austin skyline where you’ll find locals sunning or playing a game of catch. Families gather for barbecues and birthday parties at Zilker Park, and many events are held here throughout the year.
You can see theatrical performances at the outdoor Zilker Hillside Theater, and this is where the Austin City Limits Music Festival is held in October.
There’s an 18-hole disk golf course, sand volleyball, and a paved bike trail through the middle of the park. A visit to the Zilker Botanical Garden is a must for those interested in local flora. There’s a small parking fee, and while lots are small, there are several across the park.
7. Swim at Barton Springs Pool
A big draw to Zilker Metropolitan Park is the Barton Springs Pool. It’s a public pool fed by natural underground springs. This helps the water maintain a steady 68- to 70-degree temperature all year round for swimming in all seasons! Barton Springs Pool is absolutely beautiful, too, with a natural limestone floor and grass lawns where you can relax.
The pool facility features washrooms, lockers, a huge playground area for the kids, and a cafe. Between 9 AM and 10 PM most days, you can enter the pool for a small admission fee. This is the most popular time because there are lifeguards on duty, but you can also come for free between 5 and 9 AM at your own risk.
8. Kayak or SUP on Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake, also known as Town Lake, is the perfect place to immerse yourself in authentic Austin life. It’s a reservoir on the Colorado River that’s perfectly situated between downtown Austin, Zilker Park, the Barton Springs Pool, as well as a few other outdoor recreational areas.
While you can’t swim in Lady Bird Lake, add paddling the reservoir to your list of things to do while in Austin with teenagers!
Bring your own SUPs, canoes, or kayaks, or check out one of the many rental shops along the lake, like Austin Rowing Club on the northern side. There are eight official entry points along Lady Bird Lake. It takes about an hour to paddle from one side to the other, and the water is calm, making it perfect for beginners.
9. Take a Hike
Austin’s location in the Texas hill country means you’ll find all kinds of opportunities to go hiking No matter your skill level, the whole family will find great trails with stunning views of the rolling hills and Austin’s iconic skyline.
A great place to central place start is along the Hike-and-Bike Trail. This is a 10-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake with wide, flat, paved paths. It’s accessible and perfect for strollers, wheelchairs, joggers, and cyclists. You can choose the length of your hike or do the entire loop!
For a bit more challenge and more rural terrain inside the city limits, head to the Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail. It’s an out-and-back multi-use trail through a wooded area with great spots to stop along the creek. While it’s popular and kid-friendly, it’s close to 15 miles and can be challenging in some spots.
10. Climb Mount Bonell at Sunset
Mount Bonell is a fun little piece of Texas history and a great way to spend an evening outdoors. Located in a small park on the north side of Austin, it’s an escarpment that reaches almost 800 feet above sea level, offering a great viewpoint of the Colorado River Valley and downtown Austin.
Open from 5 AM to 10 PM daily, it’s free to park and hike the trail. Come about an hour before sunset for breathtaking views!
There’s an unpaved trail and 102 limestone stairs that lead to an observation area at the top. It’s fun to read the interesting educational markers at Mount Bonell or have a picnic at the picnic tables inside the hilltop pavilion.
11. Check out Austin’s Natural Swimming Holes
While you are enjoying all of the outdoor activities in Austin, you might want to cool off from the Texas heat. Head to one of the many gorgeous natural swimming holes in the Austin area.
Inside the city limits, you can take a short hike inside the Barton Creek Greenbelt to the natural swimming holes at both Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls.
For a special treat, head 40 minutes south to Blue Hole Regional Park near Wimberley. This swimming hole is great for families, with soft lawns, shallow waters, and fun swing ropes hanging from the majestic cypress trees hanging overhead.
Jacob’s Well is another must-see. The pool is sapphire and emerald-colored, and your heart will skip a beat at the sight of the deep, fully-submerged cave that is Jacob’s Well! Just make sure to check the reservation website before you go make sure swimming is allowed when you visit.
12. Go wakeboarding at Quest ATX
Quest ATX is a water park in a way that only central Texas could do a water park! More specifically, it’s a cable wakeboarding park on a man-made lake just outside the city limits.
This is a thrilling way to cool off, and don’t be intimidated if you’ve never tried it! They have different courses, including a beginner’s course. Everyone wears a helmet and the cables are controlled by staff.
There are also rope swings, an inflatable waterpark, and shaded areas with picnic tables. You can also rent paddle boards or canoes. It’s a great way to spend a laid-back day because the place is super casual. It’s BYOB and while they offer concessions, you can bring coolers with your own food.
13. Race Go-Karts at K1 Speed
For more thrilling outdoor activities on dry ground, K1 Speed is a hit with teens in Austin. The 48-foot-long loop track is great for all ages with electric go-karts that go up to 45 miles per hour! There’s an arcade room, a dining room with pool tables, and a place to lounge while you wait for your race.
They also offer birthday party bookings for all ages. If you just want to ride go-karts, I suggest calling ahead and booking reservations because they are often busy with parties! They are open till midnight most nights, so they are able to accommodate all kinds of guests.
14. Eat at the Local Food Trucks
In the last decade or so, Austin has become famous for its food truck scene. You’ll find dozens of different food trucks and trailers everywhere across the city, but the best places to find them are at Austin’s food truck parks.
The most popular food truck parks are in South Austin, including the family-friendly Thicket Food Truck Park. These gathering spots are a great place to try new foods from distant lands or sample offerings from famous chefs. Try fun fusion cuisine or save room for fun desserts with a twist!
15. Fly Through the Air at Lake Travis Zipline Adventures
See the Texas hill country from above when you go on a 3-hour zipline tour in the hills around Lake Travis. One of my family’s favorite things to do anywhere we go is to try different ziplines, and Lake Travis Zipline Adventures doesn’t disappoint! The park boasts three of the top fastest and longest ziplines in Texas. They offer both daytime and nighttime tours with headlights, which is a completely different experience!
With admission, you get access to five zip lines during your 3-hour tour, as well as access to their private beach on Lake Travis.
Your day starts with a boat ride across the lake and ends with you lounging in hammocks under the trees. Between each ride, you’ll enjoy scenic lakeside hikes. But don’t worry! Your ticket includes unlimited ice water and a swim in Lake Travis.
16. Peter Pan Mini Golf
For more classically Austin things to do with teenagers, a stop at Peter Pan Mini Golf is a must. The family-own course has been a mainstay in Austin since 1948. This is the place to come for a classic mini-golf experience.
There are two different 18-hole courses with fiberglass dinosaurs, castles, and other whimsical sculptures designed by a local artist. It has a strong “Keep Austin Weird” vibe if that’s what you’re looking for!
Peter Pan Mini Golf is super affordable and as iconic as they are, you’ll find that they aren’t super crowded. Spend an hour in one course or pay for all 36 holes.
They sell water, soft drinks, and snow cones, but you can bring in your own food and drinks to enjoy at picnic tables near the entrance.
17. Austin Bouldering Project
Austin Bouldering Project is if you are looking for indoor activities on a rainy day or if you want to try bouldering in a safe, controlled setting. Both locations in Austin are massive with lots of beginner-friendly climbs.
They offer classes and meetups for all ages and skill levels. There is a huge hangout space with Wi-Fi and cozy lounges, as well as a cafeteria-type space with different food and drink options.
18. Head Underground at Inner Space Cavern
One of the best things to do in Austin with teens is exploring the underground caves of Inner Space Cavern, just north of Austin. Below the hills of Travis County are miles of limestone caves dating back thousands of years. Inner Space Cavern offers a handful of different tours, depending on your adventure level!
Their basic tour is the Adventure Tour, which is a little over an hour long and takes you about a mile underground. It’s a great way to see the stunning rock formations and learn about the history of when the caverns were discovered.
There are more physically demanding tours where you’ll be given a hard hat, flashlight, and knee pads to crawl through caverns that few people get to see if that’s more your speed. They have seasonal hours and you can purchase tickets online or in person.
19. Visit the Museum of Ice Cream
For low-key, fun things to do in Austin with teens, check out the Museum of Ice Cream. This is also a great way to cool off for a few hours on a hot Texas afternoon!
The Museum of Ice Cream is a walk-through exhibit with different setups focused on the sweet treat. Along the way are different selfie stations and interactive displays. They provide free snacks, popcorn, ice cream, and candy! Make sure to visit the gift shop before you leave.
20. Sandbox VR
A fun way to spend quality time with your teen is at the immersive Sandbox VR at the Dominion in north Austin. Even if you’ve done immersive VR experiences, you have to try this one out! You and your group of up to 6 get your own room where you will play out 30-minute games in exclusive worlds made just for Sandbox VR.
Don’t worry if you have different family members with different gaming abilities. You’ll have a private instructor that walks you through how it works and will then chime in through your headset if you need help along the way. At the end of your game, you’ll get a recording of your game and pictures that your instructor takes.
It’s best to make reservations at Sandbox VR in advance, but they are really great at accommodating walk-ins.
21. Play Retro and Modern Video Games at Pinballz
Kids and kids at heart alike will love a visit to one of the three Original Pinballz Arcade locations. The central Austin location is the first and smallest, while the northern and southern locations are larger and newer. But any of them will be tons of fun with authentically vintage arcade games and pinball machines, as well as new ones!
Share your favorite arcade game with your teen. You get a reloadable card and unlimited access to the game room. There’s an old-school feel at Pinballz, with a classic dining area that serves all-time favorites like pizza and burgers! Also, they offer BYOB.
Original Pinballz Arcade is open every day from noon to 10 PM, and 2 AM on Friday and Saturday. And they have great deals like discounts if you get $20 on a card at a time and free beer after midnight on the weekends.
Be sure to save this list if you plan to visit Austin with kids. We promise these activities will score you some cool points with your teens!